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Neil Lennon hopes Scottish Cup final win lifts Celtic

Hearts v Celtic – Scottish Cup Final – Hampden Park
(Image credit: Andrew Milligan)

Neil Lennon hopes Celtic’s historic William Hill Scottish Cup final win over Hearts will see his side play with more freedom and less anxiety.

The Hoops clinched an unprecedented quadruple domestic treble with a tense 4-3 penalty shoot-out win over the Jambos at Hampden Park on Sunday after 120 minutes of a final delayed from last season had ended 3-3.

The Celtic boss turns his attention back to the current campaign where his side have already been knocked out of the Europa League and the Betfred Cup with the quest for 10 in a row in some jeopardy as they find themselves 16 points behind Rangers at the top of the Premiership, albeit they have three games in hand.

Ahead of the visit of Ross County on Wednesday night, the former Parkhead captain analysed the potential knock-on effects from their 40th Scottish Cup final win.

Lennon said: “There is a lot of good feeling around the place, players are galvanised and full of energy.

“You are hoping a big burden of pressure is off them and they can go out and play a bit more freely and with a little less anxiety as well and chip away at winning games and finding our consistency.

“But there’s no doubt it is a fantastic achievement for them and it has given them a huge psychological lift.

“We completed one part of what was required for us and now we have to dig deep and claw back a big deficit but it is not beyond us.

“We won another treble and we can park that now, it won’t be in the back of players’ minds anymore and hopefully we can fully focus as a group on what lies ahead of us.

“What we have to do is find consistency of performance but the players know that.”

Lennon noted the volatile nature of the job as a manager as he discussed Stuart Kettlewell’s dismissal from Ross County on Saturday following the 2-0 home defeat to fellow strugglers Hamilton which left the Highland club four points adrift at the bottom of the table.

Kettlewell was soon replaced by former Falkirk, Hibernian and Inverness boss John Hughes who will be in the technical area on Wednesday night.

Lennon’s future was subject to intense speculation when Celtic were knocked out of the Betfred Cup by Kettlewell’s men at the end of November.

Hundreds of fans turned up outside Parkhead calling for change following the 2-0 defeat, the Hoops’ first loss in 36 domestic cup ties.

The Northern Irishman said: “I was surprised. I thought he did a great job there.

“I spoke to him on Saturday night to wish him well. I knew how much the job meant to him and how much Ross County meant to him as well.

“One thing you are guaranteed in this job is the sack at some stage. He has sort of earned his stripes and I hope he comes again.

“The job is very volatile, particularly in this day and age.

“It is more volatile than ever but thankfully my own board haven’t listened to the outside noise and we have a bit of catching up to do and some great things to try to achieve so we are very focused on that now.

“It may be too soon for John to implement his style of play. But there is a familiarity about them.

“A set-play and a penalty cost us the cup game but we didn’t create enough chances and that is something we have to address for tomorrow.”